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How Not to Narrate a Nation – a talk by Manjushree Thapa

Right to left - Sunila Kale, Manjushree Thapa, Scott Halliday, Pasang Sherpa, David Citrin, Sam Ostroff

April 20, 2018

Manjushree Thapa, acclaimed Nepali author and former UW creative writing student spoke in Thomson Hall on Thursday April 19th. Weaving together stories of her time at UW and experiences of Nepali society and political transformation, she raised questions about power, subjectivity, and representation.

Manjushree recalled writing workshops at UW and the ways they shaped her understanding of American fiction. American fiction writers focus on the individual, the relationships and hardships of unique people. Nepali society is a stark contrast, a dense social fabric where an individual is always defined in relation to society, and a polity that has been torn down and remade numerous times in the past century. As a Nepali it was natural for the nation and its social fabric to be a central feature of Manjushree’s writing.

As an English language writer, Manjushree struggled to find her appropriate place as a commentator on Nepal. English carries much more power than Nepali, and placed Manjushree very high in the Nepali social hierarchy.

At UW Manjushree learned the importance of the individual and brought that to her writing, creating characters that could not fit a generic mold. But from a powerful social position Manjushree began to feel ill-equipped to narrate the Nepali nation. In recent years she has found a solution – to amplify the voices of Nepalis that speak to their subjectivity within Nepal. Through translations Manjushree lends her social authority to the powerful yet suppressed stories of untouchables and other silenced people.

Information about Manjushree’s publications can be found on her website.